Norway’s $810bn Government Pension Fund Global, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has been barred from investing in two Israeli companies due to their “serious violations” of individual rights.
The Norwegian finance ministry has blacklisted Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, a listed subsidiary 82 per cent owned by AII, because of their alleged involvement in constructing settlements in East Jerusalem, which “must be regarded as illegal”.
The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from transferring part of their own civilian population into the territories they occupy.
The move comes amid a growing European boycott of Israeli companies with activities in the Palestinian territories.
In January PGGM, the Dutch pension fund, dumped its holdings in five banks allegedly involved in financing illegal settlements, while several other large investors are also reviewing their holdings.
Last week actress Scarlett Johansson severed her relationship with the Oxfam International charity after being criticised for promoting Sodastream, an Israeli home drinks carbonation company that has a factory in the Maale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem.
Both AII and Danya Cebus were originally blacklisted between August 2010 and August 2013 in relation to their settlement activity. According to Norway’s Council of Ethics, the ban was dropped after AII said neither it nor any of its subsidiaries was involved in or had plans to construct settlements in the West Bank. However the council said it had since received information that Danya Cebus was involved in such activity. Neither company could be reached for comment.
Shikun & Binui, an Israeli property group, was blacklisted on the same grounds in 2011.
The Norwegian finance ministry has also blocked the pension fund from investing in Sesa Sterlite, a newly formed India-focused subsidiary of London-listed mining company Vedanta.
Vedanta itself and two other subsidiaries have been blacklisted since 2007, when the ethics council said their operations in India carried “an unacceptable risk of severe environmental damage and systematic human rights violations”.
The pension fund has also been barred from investing in the sovereign bonds of North Korea, Syria and Iran, although none of these states currently issue government debt. It has, however been given the green light to invest in sovereign bonds issued by Myanmar.
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